The Shanghai Songbird Part 5

A volley of shots rang out. A fiery hammer slammed into Lee’s abdomen. He coughed, going straight down. His vision blurred, his chest burned, wet heat squirted out of the wound. He saw the Songbird turn and run. He raised the Nambu and fired.

Missed.

She pointed her weapon over her shoulder and squeezed off a couple of rounds. A bullet slapped the sidewalk next to Lee’s face. Flinching, Lee pointed at her and pressed the trigger.

Nothing.

No more ammo.

The woman tottered over to her car. Swearing, Lee released the empty gun and tried to get up. But his torso ignited in firestorm of pain and forced him down.

“Hey…”

Lee looked to his right. Wong was on his back, trying to plug a hole in his throat with his left hand. With his right, he held out his Colt.

“Take…” Wong whispered.

Lee reached out. Grabbed the weapon. Propped himself up.

Ouyang was rounding the bonnet of her car, going for the driver’s seat. In the dim glow of the streetlight he could just about see her face framed in the car window.

He aimed. Almost shouted a warning. Then he remembered that he wasn’t a cop anymore, and this was Shanghai.

He fired. Again and again and again, the muzzle flash stealing his sight and the sharp flat report robbing his hearing. He fired and fired and fired until the Colt went dry.

He squinted, trying see past the purple spots in his sight. The window glass had been shattered. No sign of the Songbird. Grunting, he pushed himself up, pushing past the pain in his torso, and shuffled to the car.

She lay spread-eagle on the road, a dark pool blooming from her head. She was beautiful, once, before glass shrapnel shredded her face. She was still breathing, barely, and in the darkness he couldn’t see her wound. If any. He kicked the pistol out of her hand. A wet gurgle escaped her mouth, overcome by a torrent of blood. She looked at him, parted her lips, exhaled, and died.

The last of Lee’s strength bled dry. The Colt slipped from his hand and bounced off the road. He dropped to his ass, dimly aware of his hands and feet rapidly going cold. Every breath filled him with pain. He held his hand to his wound, trying and failing to hold back the surge of blood.

In the distance, police whistles blew. The police was finally, finally, coming, certain now that they wouldn’t be wandering into the middle of a gangland gunfight. In his blurring vision, he thought he saw a squad of uniformed policemen running down the road.

Who were they? Japanese? Chinese? Or—

“Shanghai Municipal Police!” a cop yelled.

In English.

Lee smiled.

****
The next few hours passed in a blurry haze. He remembered the searing pain as the British policemen hauled him to safety, the ambulance ride at breakneck speeds, the muttering of nurses and doctors as they prepared him for surgery.

When Lee was capable of conscious thought, it was daylight. He squinted against the morning sun streaming in through the window. He was lying on a stiff mattress, covered in a plain white sheet. His abs ached, but not as much as when he’d been shot.

He hazarded a look around. He was in a twelve-man ward. A quarter of the beds were empty. The other bed was filled with hard men with harder eyes. Tattoos of dragons, gods and Buddhas covered their arms and necks and faces. Some of them chatted with each other amicably, while the others studiously ignored everyone else.

A nurse looked up from her desk. Smiling, she strode over to Lee.

“You’re awake,” she said.

Lee nodded. “Where am I?”

“Shanghai General Hospital.” She consulted her clipboard. “You were admitted about six hours ago, and underwent emergency surgery for a gunshot wound to the abdomen. You seem to be doing well. The doctor will give you a more detailed diagnosis when he makes his rounds.”

As the nurse examined him, Lee spotted a quintet of men strolling into the room. Four men protecting a fifth. The other patients straightened and called out greetings to the last man, or pointedly looked away and said nothing. The nurse glanced at him and continued working in silence, taking a couple of minutes longer than necessary.

Finally, the nurse retreated to her desk. The newcomers approached Lee’s bed.

“Mr Lee,” Tang said. “Not dead yet, I see.”

“Mr Tang,” Lee said. “I’d shake your hand, but I’ve been advised to remain lying on my back.”

Tang smiled mirthlessly. “I heard what happened last night. It wasn’t an ideal outcome, but the situation was resolved. Thank you for your hard work.”

“Don’t mention it. Have you seen Sergeant Wong?”

“I heard he’s three doors down. With the rest of his police friends.”

Shanghai was a dangerous place for police. Hospitals were supposed to be neutral ground, but there was too much blood spilt on too many streets for the police to rely on the honour of thieves.

“I appreciate you coming to visit me,” Lee said.

Tang shrugged. “I had business here.”

“Ah. So, what happens next?”

“Mr Lee, you did us a great service. You need not worry about your medical fees. And, we will double the fee Ms Ouyang promised you.”

“It is generous of you.”

“It is nothing. Incidentally, my group is always looking for good men…”

Lee laughed. Once. Then the pain in his belly forced him to stop.

Tang chuckled. “You’re not a policeman any more, Mr Lee. If the Japanese dogs learn what you did, you’ll need protection.”

“I’ll consider your offer.”

“I’m sure you will.”

The gangsters left as suddenly as they had come. Lee shifted around on his bed, making himself comfortable.

The Dragon Head was right. Someday there might be a reckoning with the Japanese. Someday the police or the triads might turn on him. Someday, he might find that there was no room in Shanghai for a mixed-blood man mixed up in crime and espionage.

But for now, he could rest.

The End


Cheah Git San Red.jpg

Previous parts: 1234

Thanks for reading The Shanghai Songbird. If you’d like more long form fiction, look out for my Dragon Award nominated novel No Gods, Only Daimons.

3 thoughts on “The Shanghai Songbird Part 5

  1. Hi,

    I enjoyed this. It had the noir feel and it built to a great climax. You’ve done really well in getting across a whole film worth of plot in such a short story. I do think it needs expanding a lot, though. I said in my tweets that I didn’t get a feel for the place or time as much as a native might, and that is true of the whole story. I also think it needs editing for minor typos and also for little touches that would make it flow more. At times I couldn’t quite tell what was what. I’ll give you a few examples so you get a feel of what I’m on about.

    >Just before Ouyang had left his office, she had told him what the stalker looked like. This man seemed to fit the bill.

    I’d like to see Ouyang tell Lee this as it happened in the first part of the story, not told to me in the second part, or at least get this information across to me in a less clunky way. Maybe that’s just me.

    >Ouyang reappeared, dressed in a green shawl and matching cheongsam.

    What’s a cheongsam?

    >The man exchanged icy glares over a rocky abyss.

    The MEN exchanged icy glares.

    I have no idea what Mr Tang looks like, which is strange. All I know is that he’s got a long thick beard. He’s such a major figure in the underworld I’d expect the narrator to tell me more about him.

    Here’s an example where I was confused about where people were.

    “I want to see him,” Tang interrupted.

    In this bit, Mr Tang has gone into another room, so I find it confusing when he (his voice) suddenly appears to be in the same room as Lee and the bodyguards. It’s all about making sure the reader has a good sense of where each person is when they talk or interact.

    Here’s the sort of thing that works better for my dumb head.
    “I want to see him,” Mr Tang’s voice boomed from the private room next door.

    Well, these are just my thoughts on a few points. I hope you get something useful from them, and don’t mind public feedback.

    Good luck with the next story about Lee and Wong. I’d definitely be happy to read more about them and their world.

    • Thanks! To put things in perspective, I wrote this story in 2014 for an online magazine. I had to omit descriptions and other details to make the word count. The Shanghai Songbird is a snapshot of my past writing skill, and going forward I’ll be sure to keep your comments in mind.

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